There is a great hymn whose first line goes like this: “I have decided to follow Jesus; no turning back, no turning back.”
This week we have decided to take those words literally. We are going to follow Jesus on the journey of his last week on earth; the most important, impacting week that was ever lived on this planet.
Each day take a little time (20-40 minutes) to read each passage and devotional thought. Reflect on the questions at the end of each section and allow the Holy Spirit to speak to your heart. Receive the truth, even it if hurts, because He gives it with love. Allow Him to transform your thinking, your agendas, your outlook and your passions. By doing so, you are following the path of Jesus and will experience a greater measure of life that you never thought possible. It will be a week that will change your world.
Sharing in the Sufferings (John 19:16-37)
So the soldiers took charge of Jesus. 17 Carrying his own cross, he went out to the place of the Skull (which in Aramaic is called Golgotha). 18 There they crucified him, and with him two others—one on each side and Jesus in the middle. 19 Pilate had a notice prepared and fastened to the cross. It read: jesus of nazareth,the king of the jews. 20 Many of the Jews read this sign, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city, and the sign was written in Aramaic, Latin and Greek. 21 The chief priests of the Jews protested to Pilate, “Do not write ‘The King of the Jews,’ but that this man claimed to be king of the Jews.” 22 Pilate answered, “What I have written, I have written.” 23 When the soldiers crucified Jesus, they took his clothes, dividing them into four shares, one for each of them, with the undergarment remaining. This garment was seamless, woven in one piece from top to bottom. 24 “Let’s not tear it,” they said to one another. “Let’s decide by lot who will get it.” This happened that the scripture might be fulfilled that said,“They divided my clothes among them and cast lots for my garment.” So this is what the soldiers did. 25 Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. 26 When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to her, “Woman,[b] here is your son,” 27 and to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” From that time on, this disciple took her into his home.
28 Later, knowing that everything had now been finished, and so that Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, “I am thirsty.” 29 A jar of wine vinegar was there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put the sponge on a stalk of the hyssop plant, and lifted it to Jesus’ lips. 30 When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. 31 Now it was the day of Preparation, and the next day was to be a special Sabbath. Because the Jewish leaders did not want the bodies left on the crossesduring the Sabbath, they asked Pilate to have the legs broken and the bodies taken down. 32 The soldiers therefore came and broke the legs of the first man who had been crucified with Jesus, and then those of the other. 33 But when they came to Jesus and found that he was already dead, they did not break his legs.34 Instead, one of the soldiers pierced Jesus’ side with a spear, bringing a sudden flow of blood and water. 35 The man who saw it has given testimony, and his testimony is true. He knows that he tells the truth, and he testifies so that you also may believe. 36 These things happened so that the scripture would be fulfilled:“Not one of his bones will be broken, 37 and, as another scripture says, “They will look on the one they have pierced.”
Yes, Good Friday was yesterday. But let’s take another look at Jesus’ march to the cross. Human nature wants us to move on and get to the resurrection, get to the wonderful Easter story! We are uncomfortable with suffering, agony and death. But it is worth at least a second look. Maybe there is more to the cross than we realize.
Earlier Jesus told the people that in order to be his disciples they must “deny themselves, take up their cross and follow Me” (Matt 16:24). And then He did it. He denied Himself. He took up the cross. He followed the Father’s command. Note how He suffered: physically, emotionally, psychologically and spiritually. He suffered in every way possible. But that suffering led to life and redemption.
You and I will suffer in this life. It is inevitable. Sometimes we will suffer as a consequence of poor decisions and sin. Sometimes we will suffer because we choose to do what is right and good. Sometimes suffering will come to us; for no apparent reason. But God has a purpose: He wants to use that suffering to bring a greater sense of His presence, His character and love into our lives. It helps tremendously to know that our God suffered all that we go through and more. When we suffer we can have the fellowship of Jesus to carry us through.
Are you suffering? Invite Jesus into your suffering and let Him “fellowship” with you. Let Him renew your mind and transform your character. That Cross will someday become a Crown if you turn your eyes upon Him.